Cultural Arts: Stages
BODY OF FAITH
Based on interviews with the company of performers, as well as quotes and testimonies from published material written in the queer community, Body of Faith uses poetry, music, monologues, songs, and movement to tell a story of a community in search of its authenticity. The performance imagines faith to include numerous organized religions and community members who practice a belief system outside of mainstream religions. A collective of professional and non-professional performers tackle the issues of community beliefs and ideas in a highly theatrical evening of history, testimony, and ritual.
Written by Luis Alfaro
Directed by Christopher Liam Moore
Produced by Los Angeles LGBT Center/Jon Imparato and Cornerstone Theater Company
Presented at the Center’s Renberg Theatre on February 20, 2003
Abdulla Almuntheri, Donna Cassyd, Pierre L. Chambers, Nyra Constant, Peter Howard, Ebonie Hubbard, Audrey E. Lockwood, Michael R. Mallory, Ruben Marquez, Alejandro Navarro, Debra Pasquerette, Ilya Pearlman, Adina Porter, Peter James Smith, and George Weiss Vando
Directed by Christopher Liam Moore; setting by Rachel Hauk; costume and puppet design by Lynn Jeffries; lighting by Geoff Korf and Younwha Kong; sound design by Nathan Birnbaum; videography and projection design by R. Daniel Foster; choreography by Ken Roht; dramaturgy by John Fletcher; production stage manager Paula Donnelly; production manager Celeste Thompson; puppeteers Beth Peterson and Sean Cawelti; puppet construction by Lynn Jeffries, Sean Cawelti, and Jonathan Bastow; props artisans Laura Mroczkowski and Celeste Thompson; technical director Arny Cano; assistant production manager Daniel Light; assistant stage manager Julie Carpineto; and crew were Monica Todd, Mathew Ward, Ben Lewis, Joseph Peck, Anthony Mendez, James Good, John Panlener, Marjorie Baer, Kyle Kunnecke, Dori Quan, “Mom” Gonzalez, Adrian Benedetti, and Azalia Correa.
THEATER REVIEW LA Times
March 5, 2003
When soul and sexuality meet
Cornerstone Theatre’s ‘Body of Faith,’ part of an L.A. series, examines the role spirituality plays in the lives of everyday gays.
By Daryl H. Miller, Times Staff Writer
The first story in “Body of Faith,” Cornerstone Theater’s exploration of spirituality in the gay community, is about a boy who is assigned to look up a word in a school dictionary. While hunting for it, he happens upon a nearby listing for “homosexual” and is happy to discover that there’s a word for people like him.
When he shows the word to his teacher, however, she does not share his excitement. Neither does the principal, nor his mother. During a later visit to the dictionary, he finds that his word has been blotted out.
“Body of Faith” goes on to relate the stories of gay people who’ve been treated the same way by religion. When not ignored outright, they’ve had select quotations from religious texts flung at them in condemnation. Often, they end up feeling that their sexuality is incompatible with spirituality.
Part of a multiyear inquiry into faith’s place in Los Angeles, “Body of Faith” is based on discussions with everyday gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, much as last year’s “Crossings” was gleaned from Catholic immigrants.
For the presentation at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theatre, writer Luis Alfaro and director Christopher Liam Moore have fused the concrete with the ethereal, paralleling the attempts by many — though certainly not all — of their subjects to reconnect body and soul.
Anyone delving into a topic like religion is bound to come up with a lot of perspectives. Time and again, Alfaro and Moore tap something universal, whether their material comes from people who grew up with the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran.
A lesbian finds God within herself. A man looks back on the good old days at Studio 54, when he found God on the dance floor. A gay male couple finds God in the beauty of their union.
Others are angry with God over what’s been done in his name or out of frustration over AIDS’ decimation.
To weave together their many stories, Alfaro, a MacArthur grant recipient and author of such plays as “Pico Union,” and Moore, a founding member of Cornerstone, have come up with a multidimensional mix of story theater, music, dance, video and shadow puppetry. Their performers are two Cornerstone members and 17 community participants—all clad in white, as though they are blank canvases on which the stories are drawn.
Occasionally, actors are given stories that don’t seem to fit. A young African American woman, for instance, relates the experiences of an older Jewish one; a man tells the story of a woman passing through sex reassignment surgery. Yet this device quietly indicates that the stories belong to everyone, no matter who is telling them.
In its broadest sense, “Body of Faith” is about people connecting with something greater than themselves. Sometimes that’s God. Sometimes it’s romance. Still other times, it’s the solidarity found among other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
But it’s always a little bit of heaven.